As an editorial in today's Los Angeles Times explains:
Nearly half the world's Catholics live in Latin America, yet there has never been a Latin American pope.
But here's the rub for progressive Catholics: The cardinals from Latin America, Africa and Asia are among the most conservative. Latin American nations would be proud to see one of their cardinals assume the papacy, but that "triumph" might only solidify the church's opposition to direly needed social programs in the region.
The Mexican government's family planning program has cut the birthrate by about two-thirds in the last quarter of a century. The Brazilian government has reduced the spread of AIDS through its distribution of condoms. Africa needs similar programs. Yet the church under John Paul II strongly opposed them, and another conservative pope probably would do the same.